January 15, 2021 by John Fernandez
Preventing Fractures: Signs, Risk Factors of Osteoporosis (Video)
Osteoporosis, and the condition that precedes it, osteopenia (low bone mass), is not just a problem for older adults past retirement age. It is a condition that can start for many adults in their 50s and 60s.
A recent report found that one-quarter of all American women age 65 or older suffer from osteoporosis, which weakens bones and greatly increases a person’s risk for dangerous hip, back or other fractures. An estimated 6 percent of men in this age group also have osteoporosis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
An adult’s bones are usually at their densest at the age of 30. The precursor condition to osteoporosis, known as osteopenia, is when bones are weaker than normal — but not to the degree that they break easily, which is the serious risk that comes with all-out osteoporosis. If it occurs, osteopenia usually develops after age 50. The precise age varies depending on the lifelong health of an individual. If a person’s bones aren’t naturally dense, they may develop osteopenia earlier.
The good news: osteopenia — or its development into osteoporosis — is not inevitable. Diet, exercise and sometimes medication can help keep a person’s bones dense and strong for many years.
(Video: The Baptist Health South Florida News Team hears from Nathalie Regalado, M.D., an internal medicine physician with Baptist Health Primary Care, about the signs of osteoporosis. Video by George Carvalho and Alcyene Almeida Rodrigues)
With three million baby boomers reaching retirement age every year, a sharp increase in the occurrence of osteoporosis can be expected, according to a report last year by the U.S. Surgeon General. By 2020, the report says, half of all Americans over 50 are expected to have, or be at risk of developing, osteoporosis of the hip, while more people will be at risk of the disease at any area in the skeleton.
About 53 million people in the United States already have osteoporosis, or are at high risk, because of low bone mass. The most serious risk associated with low bone mass or density is being more susceptible to bone fractures, which can occur when doing everyday chores or routines, such as “picking up a gallon of milk,” said Nathalie Regalado, M.D., an internal medicine physician with Baptist Health Primary Care.
“If someone does something that shouldn’t cause a fracture in anyone else, but it did cause a fracture, then they should come in and be evaluated for osteoporosis,” says Dr. Regalado. “The end goal is to prevent hip fractures, which can be very serious … and prevent all other fractures.”
Loss of Height
Two other major signs of osteoporosis are loss of height and the condition that cause someone to look “hunched-over” or having a stooped posture. The clinical term for this excess curvature is kyphosis.
“The general community thinks that losing height is a normal part of aging, and to a certain extent they’re right,” says Dr. Regalado. “But if you lose more height than average, that could be a sign of osteoporosis.”
Similarly, kyphosis, or being “hunched-over” is not a normal part of aging, she says.
“Kyphosis comes from having those ‘silent fractures’ in the back that are signs of osteoporosis,” Dr. Regalado says.
From childhood into old age, a diet low in calcium and vitamin D can increase your risk of osteoporosis. More than 99 percent of body calcium is stored in the bones and teeth. This “good” calcium, in combination with Vitamin D, is essential for proper bone mass, helping prevent osteoporosis. Lifestyle factors that can contribute to osteopenia and later, osteoporosis, includes a lack of calcium or vitamin D, not enough exercise (especially strength training), smoking and too much alcohol.
Low levels of physical activity and prolonged periods of inactivity can contribute to an increased rate of bone loss. Lack of exercise is a risk factor for many chronic conditions, increasing a person’s risk of falling and breaking a bone.
Family History and Hormone Deficiencies
Additionally, susceptibility to osteoporosis and fractures appears to be, in part, hereditary. People whose parents have a history of fractures also tend to have reduced bone mass and an increased risk for fractures. Hormone deficiencies can be a risk factor for osteoporosis as well. Low estrogen levels in women after menopause and low testosterone levels in men also increase the risk of osteoporosis.
When Should You Be Screened?
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts in primary care and prevention, recommends that all women age 65 and older be screened for osteoporosis. The task force also recommends screening for women under the age of 65 who are at high risk for fractures. Men over the age 65 who are at high risk for fractures should talk to their doctor about screening. If you are over 50 and have broken a bone, you may have osteoporosis or be at increased risk for the disease.
“Even if people don’t have symptoms, they should be evaluated for osteoporosis after the age of 65,” says Dr. Regalado, “Because we’re trying to get ahead of the game and prevent fractures.”
Free Osteoporosis Heel Scan
Take charge of your bone health with a free osteoporosis heel scan. It’s a quick, painless test to measure your risk of low bone mass. You’re a candidate if you:
• Are a woman over age 30 or a man over age 50.
• Have a family history of osteoporosis or osteopenia.
• Have certain diseases or take certain medications (see website for details).
• Live an inactive lifestyle.
• Are small or thin.
• Have an unhealthy diet.
Offer valid April 1, 2017 – April 30, 2018, at selected Baptist Health Medical Plazas in Miami-Dade and Broward. To make a same-day appointment or for more information, call 786-573-6000, email Screenings@BaptistHealth.net or visit BaptistHealth.net/OsteoScreening.